The Common Program of the People's Republic of China 1949-1954

Article 34 of the Common Program

Mutual aid

Within China's fishing industry, three distinct types of fisheries exist: deep-sea, inshore, and inland. Deep-sea fishing remains underdeveloped, with most vessels not venturing beyond the continental shelf's edge. Coastal fishing, while significant, lacks systematic development. Inland fisheries can be found in lakes, rivers, canals, and ponds. However, in western China, fish resources have become severely depleted. Overall, inland fisheries hold less importance compared to sea fisheries. "Although fisheries have a long history in China, they were kept in their original form and on a very limited scale until the end of the 1950s. In 1949, ... the production value was only 150 million yuan, accounting for 0.6% of the total agricultural production value [6]. From 1949 to 1957, the fisheries in China were in a stage of restoration and development....In 1950, the total production of the aquaculture industry was ... accounting for only 8.6% of the total aquatic products "
Fig. 34.1: Fisheries productions in China, 1949-1954
Source: Jia (2001). Table 3,
Volume: mt
In 1950, the majority of the 78,000 fishing boats in existence lacked diesel engines, resulting in a modest production of 546,000 metric tons in marine capture fisheries. However, there was a significant surge in the number of powered fishing vessels from 1951 onwards. Nonetheless, sea farming/ranching remained a minor contributor to both marine capture fisheries and overall production (see Fig. 34.1). Throughout the past few centuries, China had a longstanding tradition of cultivating more than ten marine plants and animals, including four seaweed varieties, five molluscs, one shrimp, and one fish species. However, due to the limited efficiency of prevailing methods and reliance on natural seed and substrates, the annual total production remained small, amounting to less than 10,000 metric tons. To foster growth in the fishing industry, the government extended financial aid in the form of cash loans for boat and tackle purchases. Furthermore, fish markets were established in Qingdao, Shanghai, Yantai, Ninghsien, Wusih, and Yongjia. Freight charges were reduced, salt prices were lowered, and profitable storage facilities were created. Robinson (1956) concludes that the industry, previously lacking organization, decentralization, and scientific methods, was undergoing a process of unification, centralization, and modernization.
The exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the People's Republic of China refers to the maritime area adjacent to and beyond its territorial sea. It extends up to 200 nautical miles from the baseline used for calculating territorial sea breadth.
Fig. 34.2: Catches by EEZ by the fleets of PRC 1950-1954

Pauly Daniel and Le Manach Frédéric (2015). Tentative adjustments of China's marine fisheries catches (1950-2010)
Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) Measure in tonnage
Fig. 34.3: Catches by EEZ by commercial groups of PRC 1950-1954

Pauly Daniel and Le Manach Frédéric (2015). Tentative adjustments of China's marine fisheries catches (1950-2010)
Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) Measure in tonnage
Fig. 34.4: Catches by EEZ by fishing sectors of PRC 1950-1954

Pauly Daniel and Le Manach Frédéric (2015). Tentative adjustments of China's marine fisheries catches (1950-2010)
Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) Measure in tonnage
Fig. 34.5: Catches by EEZ by Gear by the fleets of PRC 1950-1954

Pauly Daniel and Le Manach Frédéric (2015). Tentative adjustments of China's marine fisheries catches (1950-2010)
Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) Measure in tonnage

In addition to traditional fisheries, China also engaged in sea farming and ranching practices. A significant development occurred in 1952 when kelp cultivation and harvesting began on artificial substrates in the form of rafts. This marked the first instance of such practices in China. Recognizing the importance of marine fishery resources, the Chinese government increasingly invested in research and published several reports during the 1950s. In 1951, two directives were issued: the "Temporary Fishery Bylaw for the Mid South Region" and the "Temporary Regulations on the Reproduction and Protection of Aquatic Plants and Animals in the Mid South Region." These directives demonstrated the government's commitment to studying and preserving marine resources. To further enhance the understanding and knowledge of fisheries, the first university dedicated to fisheries was established in Shanghai in 1952. This institution played a crucial role in training individuals and advancing expertise in the field of fisheries in China.
Fig. 34.6: Production of Japanese kelp, 1946 -1958
Source: Jia (2001). Table 10

Fig. 34.7: Irrigation infrastructure in China 1949–1954
Source: Du (2019). Page 59
*millions of hectare **millions of ton
"In the early days of the PRC, the central government clearly defined the basic principle of the public ownership of water resources. However, at that time, water consumption was low, water pollution was not serious, and competition and conflicts between water users were not prominent." During the period of restoring the national economy, irrigation played a crucial role as a key component of infrastructure investment, ranking second only to transportation and communication. From 1949 to 1952, the total investment in agriculture, forestry, and irrigation amounted to 1.03 billion RMB, which accounted for 13.14% of the overall infrastructure investment, with the majority of funds allocated to irrigation construction. In 1950, a large-scale irrigation project was initiated to manage the Huai River, resulting in a 65% reduction in flooded areas compared to 1950. In October 1951, construction began on the Upper Yongding River. Similar to the land reform initiatives, the construction of irrigation systems served as a means to mobilize rural areas. The Huai River irrigation project mobilized 220,000 workers, while the Guangting Reservoir construction in the Yongding River required 40,000 laborers, and the works in the Jingjiang involved over 300,000 workers. However, these construction endeavours were plagued by instances of fraud and negligence. Inferior and faulty materials were utilized, leading to significant challenges. For instance, in 1952, the Henan Province incurred disbursements exceeding 50 billion yuan (old RMB) in Shanghai for labour and equipment procurement for the Huai River project. Shockingly, dishonest merchants in Shanghai managed to cheat and steal several billion yuan from these funds.
In northern China, inadequate surface water resources necessitated the reliance on groundwater for irrigation projects. Furthermore, numerous rivers were harnessed for hydropower production. In 1949, only 22 large dams were operational, generating a total installed hydropower capacity of 163 MW2. Plans to construct a series of large dams along the Changjiang (Yangtze) River for flood control and electricity generation were initially conceived as early as 1919. However, these projects were abandoned due to the civil war. The devastating flood of 1954 expedited preparations for the Three Gorges Dam, and one year later, planning activities commenced with the assistance of Soviet Union experts. To fully harness hydropower, the central government mandated the installation of small hydropower generating units wherever feasible. In 1953, an administrative agency for Small Hydropower was established under the Ministry of Agriculture, and training programs were organized to cultivate experts nationwide. However, these small-scale projects remained isolated and scattered. Tragically, floods in 1931 and 1935 resulted in the loss of approximately 300,000 lives.
The great project to harness the Huai River

"…the 10 largest flood-prone areas in China are the Yangtze River Delta Region, the area between Nanchang and Nanjing along the Yangtze River, the middle and lower parts of the Gan River Region, the Dongting and Poyang Lake areas in the middle- and lower-Yangtze River basin, the Huai River basin, the piedmont Region of the Taihang Mountains, the lower parts of the Hai River and Luan River, the Pearl River Delta, the lower part of the Liao River Region, the Sanjiang Plain in Northeast China, the Wei River Plain, and the Sichuan Basin."
Between June and September 1954, there were heavy floods, which affected Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces and caused the death of 30,000 people and affected 19 million people. "...the Beijing-Guangzhou railway line was suspended for more than 100 days. It is estimated that the 1954 flood caused more than 10 billion Yuan (about 0.98 billion Euros) of direct losses, and uncountable indirect ones (YWRP,1999)." On October 14, 1950 GAC makes the decision to the governance of the Huaihe.
While there was a big flood in the central provinces, there was draught in the North.

Huaihe River

China traditionally had a lot of forests, about half of the country was covered with forests, especially in southwestern China. In 1949 the estimated coverings had been reduced to 8,6%. The growing population and failing government policy caused more decline to less than 5%. "The Ministry of Forestry was organized and run principally as a supplier of raw materials for industry, rather like the ministries of coal and mining, and not as the manager of a limited but renewable resource. This led to tremendous over-exploitation with scant attention to re-planting...Procurement prices were set at a very low, fixed rate, which led to constant overcutting, shortages and waste at all levels of the system." Timber, as one of the most important industrial materials, was one of the earliest products whose purchase, transportation and sale were controlled by the government. The ministry was understaffed, 27 cadres and 2 SU experts who are responsible for managing forest areas measuring some 100 million ha.
During the land reform campaign, natural forests privately owned by wealthy landlords were confiscated and redistributed. Part of the forests owned by the rich peasants, and the common forests were also conficated and 42% of the total forested area of China was nationalized, effectively giving the state control over 68% of the timber volume produced yearly. "The rest was redistributed equally to rural households, with former landlords receiving the same share as everyone else. The campaign covered all of China with the exception of Tibet and the border areas in Yunnan where minority ethnic groups resided. In these remote areas, confiscated forests were not redistributed to households but were designated as common property of the village community, due largely to attention given to political sensitivity of border areas.7"
Zhao (2012) states "The progress of greening in the 1950s was considerable: in the spring of 1951, 500 000 acres of land were afforested, more than what the Kuomintang did in all its 22 years of ‘misrule’ (1927–1949),34 and this was also the case in 1953.35 In eastern Henan and western Hebei provinces and in northeast and northwest China, 1 625 000 acres of land had been afforested by the middle of 1954. These new plantations were intended to provide shelter for nearly 52 million acres of arable lands. By 1955 an additional 550 000 acres of trees had been planted to create a shelter belt stretching from eastern Inner Mongolia into the north-eastern provinces, with agricultural yields in the vicinity being reported to have increased fivefold.36" He concludes however, "However during the Mao era the implementation of greening was a general failure. This was firstly due to an overemphasis on numbers of trees planted, rather than on establishment. Secondly, as a result of a desire to demonstrate increasingly numerous results there was a general lack of care after trees were planted."
In the first period of the establishment of cooperatives (See Article 29), private forest ownership still existed during the period 1953-1955 and was effectively dismantled in 1956 with the establishment of advanced cooperatives.
Fig. 34.8: Tenurial and management arrangements for forestland during the early 1950's
Source: Wang (2011). Page 419
* Usually, 'sizable' meant natural forest areas larger than 33.3 ha and economic forest areas larger than 6.7 ha. However, the local governments could set their own standard
**Trees from which an income could be obtained without felling them, for example, through the sale of fruits
***Trees grown for timber

The growing population and the growing importance of industry made the demand for timber high. The export of timber to China from western countries declined due to their embargo policy. (See Article 37 ) "…since 1949. More people needed more food, and more food could only be grown on more arable land. As a traditional agricultural society, about 85% of the Chinese population was living in rural areas. Using the same old slash-and-burn techniques as their ancestors did for generations, the Chinese peasants cleared and burned forest tracts in order to enlarge the cultivated land area. Just as Li (1990) noted, “a vicious circle appears to characterize the relationship between population growth and deforestation in China” (p. 255)."
Fig. 34.9: Change in the distribution of deforested areas in Heilongjiang 1949-1958
Source: Gao (2012). Page 349
In total, there were 142,184 km2 of primary forest (Table 1) while secondary forest stood at 68,801 km2 in 1958. During 1949-1958 deforested area mounted to a net loss of 60,265 km2 . Consequently, forested area was reduced to 247,755 km2 at an annual rate of 1183 km2. The pace of deforestation in this period drastically quickened than in the previous period. Page 348
"A good deal of the planting in those early years was carried out by workers, peasants, students and men and women of the People's Liberation Army who had been mobilized to help in State planting schemes. But even then a substantial proportion of the planting was carried out by the peasants in the cooperatives on their own land. In either case, professional and technical guidance was often minimal, with consequences that are discussed below. In these circumstances, there is small wonder that, even if the plan fulfilment reports coming from below were accurate as to number of trees planted, the areas reported may often have become exaggerated as the figures were successively inflated, and certainly substantial areas were classified as having been afforested when in fact they had simply been reforested. Thus one can justly have reservations about the areas claimed to have been afforested without in any way disparaging the magnitude of the tree planting effort. In fact the Chinese did not know then—and probably do not know even now with any great accuracy—the total area of forest they possess. A rapid reconnaissance survey was carried out with the aid of Soviet specialists in 1954. This could have given only a rough indication of forest area, with little or no detail concern- ing composition, quality and accessibility. It did, however, reveal somewhat larger reserves than had been suspected"Page 234 "Making Green the Motherland": Forestry in China [Cite] Westoby (1979)

Under construction
After the Land Reform, individual ownership was abolished, but it was not until 1956 that grassland was officially nationalized
Fig. 34.10: Draft animals in China 1949-1954
Source: Kuo (1964). Page 146

Fig. 34.11: Livestock raising in China 1949-1954
Source: Chao (1957). Page 124

Fertilizers and farm implements...

Under construction
"In 1951, areas in north and northeastern China ran stations for popularizing agricultural techniques and began to set up supportive networks for agricultural science and technology. In 1952, some counties and Regions established stations for popularizing agricultural techniques, and areas at a county level set up cooperative agricultural production boards"Wang Anyi (2015). Development and Integration: The History of Engineers in the People’s Republic of China (1949-1989).Pages 200-201

Hu (2021). Pages 64-65, 67 [↩] [Cite]
Robinson (1956). Page 166 [↩] [Cite]
Wen (2021). Page 89 [Cite]
"Surface water was applied mostly by traditional technologies, including human conveyance, while total installed electric power available for irrigation and drainage was only 97,000 hp (72,330kw)." Pietz (2015). Page 246
In the 1950's, the problem of floods in China, was more serious than that of droughts. [↩][Cite]
Jia (2021). Page 3 [↩] [Cite]
Wen (2021). Pages 140-141 [↩] [Cite]
Pan (2006). Pages 14 and 29 [↩] [Cite]
Du (2006). Page 161.[Cite]
"The great rivers in China are prone to flood and drought disasters because of their unique natural geographical environment. For example, the Yellow River is the sandiest river in the world. Due to the silting-up of the river bed, the channel often breaks and changes course over the North China Plain, affecting a scope of more than 1,000 km scope from Tianjin in the north by the Bohai Sea to Yancheng in the south by the Yellow Sea with frequent and harmful floods." Page 3 [Cite] [↩]
López-Pujol (2016). Page 149 [Cite]
Source: Chao (1958) Page 30 *acres **million tons production ***million affected [↩] [Cite]
Liu (2016). page 259 describes several sand and dust storms in Xinjiang (1949) and Gansu (1952). "According to the records of the Zhangye Meteorological Station, the storm occurred at 15:00 p.m. in April 9 and lasted until the morning of April 10. At the peak of the storm, the visibility level dropped to grade 0 and wind strength reached grade 9" [↩] [Cite]
Harkness (1998). Page 913 [↩] [Cite]
Liu (2001). Page 241 [↩] [Cite]
Zhao (2012). Page 316 [↩] [Cite]
Zhao (2012). Page 326 [↩] [Cite]
Gao (2012). During 1948-1950 alone, approximately 6 million m3 of timber was output from Northeast China. In 1950, Heilongjiang produced 5.21 million m3 of timber. Page 350 [↩] [Cite]
RMRB "Who has been harmed by the blockade?" 09-12-1949 [↩]
Tian (2009). Page 6
"Since 1949, for the purposes of raising iron and steel output with backward skills and increasing the output of grain by reclaiming forested land, the process of deforestation continued for almost three decades. For example, in just one area of the northeast part of China, the Changbai Mountains Region, over 30 logging bureaus were set up after 1949, and about 10 million m3 of industrial logs flowed out of the Region every year." Page 9 [↩] [Cite]

Directive of the GAC regarding forestry work throughout the country. April. 14, 1950.
Directive of the Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation regarding the spring afforestation. March 20, 1950.
Directive of the Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation on afforestation in North China, the Northwest, and other areas during the rainy season. May 26, 1950.
Directive of the Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation regarding forestry work for the autumn and winter. September 30, 1950.
Decision of the GAC on the agricultural and forestry production for 1951. February 2, 1951.
Directive of the GAC regarding the strict prohibition of the burning of wasteland or reclaimed land, in order to prevent forest fires. March 17, 1951.
Directive of the GAC on practicing economy in the use of wood. August. 13, 1951.
Directive of the MOF regarding the 1952 spring af-forestation project. February 16, 1952.
04-03-1952 Instructions of the Government Council on Strictly Preventing Forest Fires
Directive of the GAC on mobilization of the masses for the purpose of launching an afforestation project and for the cultivation and protection of forests. July 9, 1953.
Directive of the MOF regarding forest protection and fire prevention. March 2, 1953.
Provisional measures of the MOF governing the unified distribution and supply of lumber throughout the country. January 8, 1954.

Water conservation

Directive of the GAC regarding the spring 1950 water conservation construction project. March 20,1950.
Supplementary directive of the Ministry of Water Conservancy regarding the spring construction project. April 27, 1950.
 14-10-1950 The decision of the GAC on the governance of the Huaihe River
Directive of the Central Flood Prevention General Headquarters regarding the work of flood prevention. August. 6, 1950.
Directive of the GAC on strengthening the work of flood prevention. June 8, 1951.
Directive of the Central Flood Prevention General Headquarters regarding the work of flood prevention. July 25, 1951.
Joint directive of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Water Conservancy on strengthening the work of irrigation management. July 12, 1951.
25-01-1952 Measures for the Division of Labor and Responsibility for Railway Rivers and Dams Provisions of the GAC regarding the stream-dividing project on the River Ching. March 31, 1952.
Decision of the GAC regarding the 1952 water conservation project. March. 21, 1952.
Directive of the Central Flood Prevention General Headquarters regarding the 1952 flood prevention project. June 20, 1952.
06-05-1953 Central Flood Control Headquarters Instructions on Flood Control in 1953
Directive of the Central Flood Prevention General Headquarters and the Central Administrative Office of Drought Prevention for Production regarding the 1954 work of flood and drought prevention. April 24, 1954.
Chapter 4 of Common Program